Monthly Archives: February 2013

  • Horsemeat Saga - Spaghetti Bologneighs and Corned Dog Hash

    I've tried to resist writing about the recent horsemeat saga for fear of upsetting people, but I can't resist any longer.  Please note that these are my views, my own personal views, I'm not trying to force these on anyone but if you're reading this then I assume that you are open to listening to other people's views on this situation - I hope so anyway.  Please no nasty letters.

    This is a labelling issue, the meat is perfectly safe to eat (as far as I can gather), so this is down to incorrect labelling.  I agree that if you buy something labelled 'beef' lasagne and on the back the only meat listed on the ingredients is beef then you don't expect it to be made from horsemeat. However, and this is a big however and I really can't stop myself from expressing this view, if you eat food that is processed and made in a food factory with a massive supply chain then surely you must expect something to go wrong at some time  as you are trusting someone else (or a number of other someones) to make sure that what goes into your food is what you'd expect to go into your food.

    Meat is expensive, it's getting more expensive and people are demanding cheap meat, if you want cheap meat then you're not going to get prime beef, or any beef for that matter, and the people processing the meat will try and serve demand with what they can get on the cheap, in this case horsemeat.

    If you want to know exactly what's going into your food then source if from your local butcher, ask him where it's come from (our butcher sources all their meat within around 7 miles unless it's New Zealand lamb - der!).  I will only allow my kids to eat sausages from our butcher as I know that he makes them from pork belly, I've made them myself (the show is on BucksTV) and you can watch him making them in the shop, yes they are expensive but we don't have them very often.  If you want chicken that tastes of chicken rather than flavourless something then buy free range or organic, it's really pricey so don't eat it every night, eat meat less frequently but buy the good stuff.  Use decent meat that you know where it's originated and cook from scratch.

    If you can't be bothered to cook from scratch, want cheap meat and buy meat products that have been processed to within an inch of their life then don't moan that there is something else than beef in there such as horse, pig, lamb, whatever.  If you're buying processed meats then you must realise that you're eating eyelids, brain, testicles, all the bits that wouldn't pass as food unless it was mashed up, processed and churned out as mush - that's why it's cheap, it's not rocket science people.  If you're happy to eat that then why is everyone shocked that there's horse in there too?  It doesn't say eyelids and 'parts of the animal that no normal person would ever like to think about eating' on the label does it?  No, it usually says something like 'pork' it doesn't say which part of the pig and it's never defined.

    Chicken nuggets are one of my pet hates, I've just looked up ingredients for one brand online, this is in a high end supermarket too, 25% chicken breast - if they're chicken nuggets and it's only 25% chicken breast then that means they're made of 75% of things other than chicken breast - let your imagination take you away.  I'm one of those Mother's from Hell who qualifies out with the restaurant, cafe, whatever whether the chicken breasts are chunks of chicken breast or 'reconstituted and mashed parts of the chicken that no person in their right mind would ever put anywhere near their mouth', if it's the former my children are allowed to eat them if it's the latter they're not.  Needless to say that it's rare for my children to ask for chicken nuggets for fear of being completely embarrassed in a restaurant by me.  One way of getting them to eat decent food.

    There was always a standing joke when I was growing up about the local Chinese takeaway and finding rats and dogs in their freezer.  My Dad used to refer to corned beef as corned 'dog' on the basis that it was so processed no one would ever really know what was in it, it tasted good to eat it and don't think about it - same with Findus foods or other highly processed foods.  Corned beef hash is amazing, as long as you don't spend too much time musing on what actually is in the corned beef.

    Basically it comes down to if you want cheap meals that someone else has prepared and you can't be bothered to cook it yourself from scratch don't moan about what's in it. don't go all' I can't eat horse' they're cute, what about lambs, piglets and calves, they're really cute and you eat them, if you're in France horsemeat is readily available in supermarkets. If you are concerned about what's in your food then learn to cook, source locally from a butcher you know and trust or go vegie - however, don't vegetables have feelings too?

    The real point, from the way I see it, is that all this food has been thrown away, into landfill, there are people out there starving, on the breadline, desperate for food, this food is safe to eat it's just mislabelled so why has it been thrown away rather than frozen and distributed to people who are hungry and would be glad of it instead of it now contributing to global warming.  Come on world wake up.


  • Christmas Eve sagas and nearly losing our dog to gastric torsion

    Having spent most of the previous week up North running back and forward to the hospital visiting Mum and trying to get her transferred down here as the NHS shuts down from 21 December through to 7 January I am now way behind on the cooking and shopping.

    All the cooking I was going to do to make up hampers for various members of the family has not happened - sorry guys, your hampers didn't get lost in the post, they just didn't power their way into existence. I spent the weekend running Splat Cooking's children's Christmas workshops and attempting to decorate various Christmas cakes - gave up and handed it over to the children.  Job done, excellent.

    Now, Christmas Eve to me means getting the turkey and gammon, making up the cranberry stuff, making mince pies and getting things prepared for Christmas Day, oh, how could I forget - wrapping presents, losing presents, forgetting where I've hidden presents and realising the ones that didn't get delivered as I was too busy up North to actually do any proper shopping. The culmination of Christmas Eve is the crib service then the neighbours in for mince pies and mulled wine finishing up with our lovely friends Debbie and John coming for supper with their kids.

    Stress level too high to go to the service, I send Pete and the kids off instead and get food ready, they come back around 4pm, take dogs out, feed dogs, clean kitchen floor ready for neighbours at 5pm.  Finally feeling Christmassy, two mugs of mulled wine definitely helps.  This is to go downhill rapidly......

    Party in full swing, mulled wine going down by the gallon and at around 6pm our lovely Sidney, 2 year old black labrador, asks to go into the garden (he doesn't actually 'ask', he's a dog, he can't talk, but  he goes up to the back door and scrapes it with his paw) but he doesn't come back in, and 30 mins later he's still outside, laying on the lawn looking very unhappy, he doesn't come back in when we call him either.  Most of the guests have left so Pete goes out and lifts him up, he's drooling dreadfully, his head is hanging down and he's really unhappy.  We ring the vet.

    We thought we'd gone past the days of one of us staying sober in case of an emergency with a child/toddler/baby as our youngest is 10, so we've both had too much mulled wine to drive - it's Christmas Eve for goodness sake, we're not intending driving for the next two days. We need to find some way of getting Sid to the vets, a 15 min drive away, taxi on Christmas Eve? Some hope.  So ring I Debbie, they're due over shortly, frantic message to get over here as quickly as possible, drop John and the kids, I'll cook if she drives Pete and Sid to the Vet Hospital, she's a doggy person and loves our Sid so no probs there.

    I feed the rest of the tribe, at 9pm Pete calls to say that Sid has bloat and gastric torsion - if you've ever seen the film Marley and Me that's what Marley died from, this is a big killer in dogs.  Suddenly our world has turned upside down, it's Christmas Eve and our dog may die.  Pete and Debbie leave Sid at the vets for them to try and sort him out and come home, they leave at around 10pm, we get the children to bed with some sense of normality  feeling very scared that when they wake up on Christmas Day we may have to tell them that Sid has died - so awful, horrid Christmas present.

    At 11pm the vet calls to say that she can't sort Sid out manually and will have to operate, she'll call us when he's out of theatre.  All I want for Christmas is for Sidney to get through this, I want my sweet little dog home.

    At 2am she calls to say that he's survived surgery and that if he makes it through the next 48 hours he's got a good chance of surviving.  We don't get much sleep.  Christmas Day dawns with much excitement from the kids and Pete and I feeling so desperately upset it's really hard to keep a jolly face on, cooking the Christmas lunch was the hardest thing I've done.  Rang the surgery for an update at 5pm, Sid was doing OK, they were cross that I'd called and asked me not to call, they'd call us if there was any news.  I don't care, he's my dog, I'm paying, I want an update, I will revert to my Northern roots and punch your lights out unless you give me an update.

    Boxing Day - panto, hmmm not quite as jolly as usual, wonder why?  Ring the vet, another telling off but they do say that he's taken a turn for the worse and is off his food and very lethargic - complete and total panic sets in, earlier reports were that he was doing well.

    Thursday 27 Dec - I'm due to drive up to see Mum for a couple days, I have to leave by 10am in order to get up there for visiting at 3pm so at 9am we ring the vets for an update, he's in examination and they'll call back once he's been looked at.  I leave at 10am without hearing, at 11am I've just got onto the M1 when Pete calls to say that they're not happy with him, he's not doing at all well and they need to xray him to see what's happening.

    I've now got the heartbreaking decision - my dog could die today, I want to be there if it happens as I want him to know that I'm there as well as Pete and the kids, I don't want my dog dying and wondering where I am and why I can't be with him.  I know this is a purely human response and emotion, I don't care, he's my dog and and I love him.  My Mum on the other hand is in good hands in hospital with no life threatening illness but who also needs my support, do I turn round and be with Sid or carry on to my Mum?  I carry on, in floods of tears doing 40 mph on the M1 in awful traffic.

    Pete calls at 12 noon to say that they've changed his meds and are having to sedate him as he's wriggling too much to be able to xray him - a good sign, I stop sobbing quite so much and can see to drive now.

    I arrive at James Cook Hospital at around 3.30pm, sit in the car waiting for Pete to call, I know if I go in to see Mum I am going to be useless, I'll take one look at her and dissolve in a ball of sobbing, tearful, heartbrokenness.  So I wait until Pete chases up the vet.......4pm he calls to say that Sid's fine, he's awake and licking all the nurses, I stop sobbing for the first time in 5 hours and go and see Mum.

    I spend three days up North, nothing moves on, nothing happens, NHS is closed until next year.  Sid comes out of hospital and is there to greet me when I get home, my special Christmas miracle dog. Happy.

  • Opticians' dodgy practices with NHS Vouchers

    If you have children under the age of 16 or under 19 and in full time education and who need glasses read on.

    As soon as a child has an eye test that shows they require glasses they are entitled to a discount voucher from the NHS, the amount is dependant on the prescription. My 16 year old's prescription is -0.5 and her voucher is for £37.50.

    Our optician showed her the frames in the shop, this is a small shop in a small town in Buckinghamshire so the selection was pretty awful.  She mentioned something about a discount on the glasses but inferred that this was in their shop, we were none the wiser.  When I said that there was nothing of interest and we would be going elsewhere to find frames I had to really press them to give me her prescription.  I asked if we should purchase the frames elsewhere and bring them back in to have the lenses fitted and was told 'no', it was better to have the lenses fitted at the same place as the frames were purchased, at this point they reluctantly handed over the prescription but only when I insisted that their range was limited (pretty awful and really boring) and I wanted the prescription to go elsewhere to find frames.  I was told that they had a discount voucher and I could come back and use it if I decided to get the frames there in the end, I said that I wouldn't and off we went.  There was no mention that this was an NHS voucher and that by law they are required to hand it over at the time of the eye test.

    So on Saturday, we trogged off to High Wycombe specifically to get her glasses, armed with the prescription.  Eventually we found a pair we liked, queued for ages and talked to the very nice lady who asked for the NHS voucher.  "What voucher?" i asked.  I was then told about the above and that by law the optometrist is required to give me the voucher and it is illegal to do what my local optician did.  I was also told that this was standard practice and that opticians hold onto them in the knowledge that customers have to go back to get them once they find out about them and they buy spectacles from the shop as they can't be pestered to go back to another again.  These vouchers come in a standard NHS issued pad and have about 3 lines to be completed so not much writing and no excuse not to hand them over.

    I went into said optician, Chilton Watson in Princes Risborough (yes I am naming and shaming, I've been a customer here for 15 years and I don't expect to be treated like this) and asked for my voucher.  When I complained I was told that they take a long time to prepare (rubbish) and they always tell customers to come back for them (we know why they do that don't we?)  This is illegal and opticians doing this need to be hung out to dry.

    So, rather than my daughter having her glasses now (they would have been ready in an hour on Saturday) we have to go back into Wycombe and start again which is going to delay her being able to see properly for another couple of weeks.

    Chilton Watson are well aware of my anger over this but this practice has to stop so please  make sure that you get your NHS vouchers and hang any opticians who try this on out to dry.  I'm sure there are some honest opticians out there but with this recently experience I will not trust any of them in the future.

  • Broken hips, NHS and distant Mums

    I thought I'd share with you my thoughts, trial and tribulations and terror of getting through the minefield that is the NHS.

    Let's go back to 17 December.  it's 8.30pm Small Boy has just finished his Christmas Concert in church, at last I'm beginning to feel a little Christmassy.  For the first time in about 4 years I've written a couple (yes I mean a couple) of Christmas cards and decided to stop lying about them being lost in the post every year and just come clean. So we're about to collect Small Boy when my mobile rings and it's Angela, my Mum's partner's daughter in law (now, you need to keep up here) would it help to have some history?

    History of my Mum's love life.  My Mum was happily married to my Dad until he died suddenly 20 years ago, she then turned into a lovestruck teenager when she met the lovely Cliff six months after my Dad died and they had a fabulous year together until unfortunately he died too.  It's a real bummer getting old. A few years later she met Jack at a dance at Middlesbrough Town Hall.  Mum and Jack have been together for around 16  years and he's the only Grandad my children have ever known. Angela is Jack's son's wife and they live a few miles away from my Mum.

    Angela called to say that Mum had fallen and broken her hip and she was in the James Cook Hospital in Middlesbrough.  Bang goes me feeling less stressed and Christmassy - total evaporation of any feelings of relaxation to be replaced by sheer and total panic.

    We grabbed small boy and spent an hour trying to get out of the church car park whilst on the phone to A&E at James Cook who tell me that Mum is waiting to see the consultant and they'll probably operate on her hip in the morning but won't know anything until the next day anyway.

    We get home, I pack, put things in place to drive up to the wilds and frozen wastes of the North East not knowing what kind of state I'm going to find my Mum, not knowing if they'll be operating as I drive up, if Mum will survive the operation, nothing, sheer blind panic.  The only upside is that I get to stay at my best mate Nadene's house for a couple of nights so I know she'll take my mind off things.  The next worry is Jack, will he be OK on his own?

    I leave at 9am Tuesday morning and get up there without stopping in 4.5 hours, I have permission to go straight onto the ward even though it's not visiting time to see Mum as she's in a side room.  They've not operated as it's a clean fracture and will heal on it's own, she's going to be in hospital for at least 6 weeks.  Spend the next few days commuting between Nadene's, Jack's and James Cook Hospital.

    Mum decides that she doesn't want to go back to her bungalow and she wants to move down to me.  I am introduced to the NHS and the local authority hell of funding..........

    Middlesbrough want Mum to stay there, transfer to a rehab centre in Redcar for 6 weeks and have her home adapted so she can go back to the bungalow with a package of care, Mum doesn't want to go back to bungalow but the local authority doesn't give a damn about what she wants, what is important to them is that they keep the funding for her no matter what her wishes are.  Is there a way around this? Damned right there is.

    First step is to get her registered with a GP down here, my lovely practice accommodates this PDQ, as a patient she is now registered to my address in  Bucks and her bank accounts other things changed to this address too.  Next is to get the nurses and sister at the ward on my side.  They are lovely, and they like my Mum which helps.  Ah, then Christmas hits and the whole of the NHS, social services and occupation and physio therapy close down for two weeks from 21 December through to 7 January.  I come back home on 21 December to run the Christmas workshops leaving Mum in hospital.



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